If you follow me on Twitter (and if not, why not?) you’ll have seen that I’ve been taking part in the Book A Day challenge. Every day in June there was a different prompt or category of book to find. I thought I would collate my responses here, so that I could give a bit more of the stories behind each choice, as 140 characters doesn’t give me a lot of room for that.
Day 1 – Childhood favourite
Alan Garner, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen
I have posted about this book before. The copy I have is the 1963 trade paperback and it cost four shillings, back in the day. I snaffled it from my sister’s bookshelf along with the sequel, The Moon of Gomrath. I think both books were snaffled by my sister from my dad.
Why it’s a favourite: It’s a tale of two children drawn into an epic battle of good versus evil, right on their doorstep. It takes place in the real world (it actually does!) and it seeps into their mundane lives. Anyone could be an evil warlock! The owls in the barn are watchers sent by dwarves! Mineshafts are the entrances to a hidden goblin kingdom! Throughout the tale are elements of Arthurian legend, Welsh mythology and dark magic. It’s a pretty tense tale for a children’s book. It doesn’t talk down to the reader. I still read it now!
Day 2 – Best bargain
Clive Barker, Weaveworld
Apart from the picture of Clive Barker, circa 1988, in the back of the book, which was worth the £1 I paid alone, this is a stunner of a book. A whole civilisation woven into a rug to keep it safe? Some of the plot turns take a while to get your head around, and I didn’t immediately warm to Cal, the main character, but it just sucks you in and keeps going! Might have to re-read it… if only there were room on the “to-read” shelf!
Day 3 – A book with a blue cover
Laini Taylor, Dreams of Gods and Monsters
Finally! The end of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy… I’ve not even opened it yet… it’s my latest real-book purchase. It is firmly at the top of the to-read pile. Ah, Karou… I’ve missed you! I need to hurry up and read it, because Rivka has been waiting for it too!
This prompt was based on the bookshop/library trope that people wander in and ask for “that book with the blue cover”, assuming the poor staff will know exactly what they mean.
Bonus: Here’s a round-up of all my blue-covered books! Extra points if you can name all the hidden ones at the back!
Day 4 – Your least favourite book by your favourite author
Margaret Atwood, The Robber BrideI began my affair with Atwood when I yoinked my sister’s copy of The Handmaid’s Tale, aged 15. She had studied it at A Level and it was covered in her notes and highlighting. Considering the themes of the book, it was a good thing I had those annotations to help me get my teeth into the text in front of me. I’ve since read a handful of her books and though there may be books I’ve re-read more often, and books that are my favourites-of-all, Atwood is my favourite author. I love her style, I love the imagery she creates and I love her complex characters.
The Robber Bride is my least favourite of the books I’ve read. Perhaps in my desperation to read all her back catalogue I was too eager to realise that this book requires some life experience. I just didn’t engage with the characters because at the time I read it, I couldn’t really sympathise with them. My experience of love and betrayal and lies was limited at that point. My life did not revolve around matrimony and suburbia and the middle classes, which of course it totally does now I’m staring down the barrel of my late twenties. I think if I read it again I would connect with it better. I have no doubt I would best identify with Zenia.
Day 5 – The one that isn’t yours
Stephen King, Duma Key
I confess, I have never read a Stephen King book. I have no desire to read the Dark Tower series; I don’t care how much you like them. I live extremely far away from pretty much everyone I am good friends with (before I met the good friends I made since moving) so when anyone from the time B.H. (Before Highlands) visits, it’s a heck of a trip.
Last year, one of those friends – an old uni housemate actually – hired some native guides and trekked all the way up here. She brought a couple of books with her, and she left Duma Key behind when she left. She says it’s good, but it just sits on my shelf in the living room so people think I’ve read it. She doesn’t want it back, either, as she is a bit crap at caring about her possessions. I’ll give it away eventually.
Day 6 – The one you always give as a gift
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
I don’t actually give books as gifts very often. I’m an extremely good gift-giver (right, J?) but on balance I’ve likely received 98% more books than I’ve given. I will give book tokens/vouchers, but people’s reading taste can be a bit too hard to judge if I don’t know them super well.
I have, however, given The Little Prince as a gift. It’s a book I own in three languages – English, French and Spanish – and one I fall in love with every time. Part of that is knowing the story of Exupéry himself, and part of that is the Prince. The story is bittersweet and timeless; a lost child in search of a way home and the adventures he has had along the way. It’s almost an Odyssey or a fairy tale. Even though I know how it ends, I still hope it will turn out differently but alas the type refuses to adjust itself.
Day 7 – Forgot I owned it
Mervyn Peake, The Gormenghast Trilogy
I am of course psychically linked to all my books, like a hivemind or a weird hoarder, so I don’t tend to forget I own books. I’m like a walking card catalogue for my precious, precious tomes. Gormenghast has been on my to-read shelf for ages, though, and my eyes tend to skip over it. Not because I don’t want to read it. No, no. I watched the BBC mini-series with Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and fell hard. I am itching to read this book. I just want to do it justice. I want to have the time to read a decent chunk of it at once and not random snatches. I have read the first few chapters already. But now it languishes. That’s as close to forgotten as I get.
There’s still time to join in #bookaday or #bookadaychallenge on Twitter. The list of prompts is below. It’s been a great month so far and I’ve made a few literary connections already. It genuinely fills me with hope for the human race that there are other people out there in the world who enjoy language, literature and the amazing infinity of words and knowledge as much as I do (and possibly more). It sounds really twee, or insincere, but I feel like I’m part of the coolest club on Earth. And there’s still three weeks to go!